Chelsea will be looking to return to winning ways on Boxing Day as they face a difficult trip to Vicarage Road to face Watford. The Blues have been inconsistent under Maurizio Sarri. On their day, they can be superb, but there are too many off days at the moment for them to be considered a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, the hosts are emerging as one of the better sides outside of the top six and will be looking to push on to finish as high up the table as they can. This match will be a difficult one to predict given the previous result of both teams.
Watford are currently in 7th position, which will be considered a huge success at this stage of the season. Their problem has been maintaining their form during the second half of the campaign. In previous seasons, they have declined rapidly and that often leads to a change in the dugout. Javi Gracia will be hoping to be the one that bucks that trend and early indications are good. Their performances have remained at a consistent level and their win over West Ham last weekend was a reminder of the threat that they do pose.
It has been an odd season for Chelsea so far. There have been plenty of positives and the recent result over Manchester City is the highlight. However, they continue to drop points when they shouldn’t. At the weekend, they were dominant against Leicester City in every department, but a lack of end product and poor game management cost them. It remains early days under Sarri, but there has to be improvement against the weaker teams. They have been too predictable to play against and the fault for that lies with the coach. He needs to have a backup plan in these types of matches.
Gerard Deulofeu has scored in successive matches for the first time in his career.
The defeat to Leicester City was Chelsea’s first at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League in 13 matches.
There has been a changing of the guard often at Watford during recent seasons, but captain Troy Deeney remains an ever-present. There has been interest in him from other teams, but he remains loyal to the team that he helped get to the Premier League in the first place. There is a lot of talent in the Watford team and the skipper has grown organically alongside the club. He is now a proven top-flight striker and he relishes matches against the top-six. It is in matches like these that he delivers his best performances. This season, his goal-scoring hasn’t been as impressive, but he remains a key player for the team. Deeney has scored three times to date during this campaign. He will be hoping that his goal on Saturday will start a run of form in front of goal. Chelsea have been vulnerable at the back during recent weeks and their defenders won’t be looking forward to the task of containing Deeney on Wednesday.
Eden Hazard is the undoubted star at Chelsea, but he needs support if the club are to go on to have a successful season. In matches recently, the Belgian has been marked out of the game. Once that happens, Sarri’s team look to be toothless in attack. Willian is a player that has performed well in the past, but his lack of consistency has always been a problem preventing him from becoming a great player. In the past, he has been linked with moves to Barcelona and Manchester United. In hindsight, many Chelsea supporters will wish that he was sold when interest was there. However, the decision was made to keep him and he must now show why he was retained. He has contributed two goals and three assists in the Premier League. A player with his raw ability should be producing more in the final third. He must soon start to ease the burden on Hazard, otherwise, he will quickly find himself out of the team. The match at Vicarage Road is a huge opportunity for him.
Andre Gray and Will Hughes remain on the sidelines for the home side. Daryl Janmaat is expected to be passed fit to start.
Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are both competing to start up front as it is thought that Eden Hazard will revert back to a wide role. Andreas Christensen and Victor Moses are both set to miss out.
This is going to be a fascinating contest and it will not be easy for Chelsea. They have shown a good ability to bounce back under Maurizio Sarri, but this is a very difficult match for them. Watford are a physical side capable of causing problems for any team on their day. They will be full of confidence and have shown before that they can beat a top-six team at home. There will be action at both ends and a score draw looks the most likely result.